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Verstappen holds off Hamilton to score vital US win

NEWS STORY
24/10/2021

As you join us for coverage of today's United States Grand Prix, we feel we must begin by offering a heartfelt apology.

Over the past couple of days we have suggested that sections of the media, most notably Sky, have been guilty of hyperbole in terms of the rivalry between certain drivers and teams.

This, of course, follows Max Verstappen's admission that he is not participating in the next series of Netflix' Drive to Survive, fly-on-the-wall documentary, accusing the makers of distorting the relationships between drivers, suggesting that there is bad feeling when there is none.

Unfortunately, in the hours leading up to today's race it became clear that far from exaggerating the situation, Netflix and Sky might have been understating it.

Never before have we seen such open hostility, not only between drivers, but team bosses, engineers and even catering and hospitality staff.

The usually ever present grin of Daniel Ricciardo is now a barely concealed snarl, while at Red Bull there has been intra-team hostility with Jos Verstappen giving Helmut Marko a slapping for a comment made 15 years ago.

While Angela Curren has done a great job in keeping Lewis Hamilton calm, unfortunately Roscoe has escaped the world champion's motorhome and currently has Verstappen trapped at the back of the Paddock Club.

The open air driver parade has been abandoned for fear of someone being pushed under the bus in the inevitable brawl, while Nikita Mazepin has been accused of writing something unmentionable on one of the We Race As One banners.

As Ross Brawn contemplates whether points could be awarded, Kimi Raikkonen surveys the situation from the top of Haas Hill while eating an ice cream.

Never before, in all our years have we seen such open hostility and anger.

Of course, the sceptical among you may not believe this, indeed you may even feel that the hype over the last couple of days, combined with tales of how F1 is experiencing a "boom" - albeit not reflected in the financials - is akin to those people who start baking bread and making fresh coffee ahead of the arrival of a potential purchaser of their house.

"After all," you might suggest, "hasn't Liberty been looking to sell F1? Haven't Netflix and Saudi Arabia been linked with a buy-out?"

Away with you sceptics, we cry, be gone.

The hostility is real, the media never lies or exaggerates. This is real!

While this is, of course, parody, one shudders to think what might happen should the title protagonists come to grief on the opening lap, and with that in mind the orange bumps behind the Turn 1 exit kerb have been removed, which means the infamous corner has been added to that growing list of Turns where track limits are strictly enforced.

Of course, with Verstappen and Hamilton on the front row we have the dream scenario, not to mention the little fact that nobody outside the front row has ever won here.

For once, Max has support in the shape of Sergio Perez - who is having one of his best weekends since joining Red Bull - while a grid penalty sees Valtteri Bottas start ninth.

While the dream scenario for Max is to get ahead and have his teammate hamper Hamilton, Red Bull could also live with the Mexican getting the jump at the start leaving his Dutch teammate to fend off the Briton.

However, and it's a big however, there is a question mark over the reliability of the Mercedes engine, and both teams have suffered ill effects from the circuit's notorious bumps.

Verstappen incurred a cracked rear wing ahead of qualifying, while Mercedes has compromised performance in lieu of the "massacreing" the W12 was suffering on the bumps.

As Toto Wolff keeps saying, and Christian Horner will agree, neither team can afford a DNF at this stage.

As if all this wasn't 'Hollywood Box Office' enough for you, behind this little trio we have Ferrari and McLaren as the battle for 'best of the rest' continues.

This battle alone should be worth the price of admission, and should Max or Lewis do anything silly, who knows, we could be looking at another 'freak' result.

The McLaren/Ferrari battle has further spice in the form of Bottas, one of several drivers starting out of position, the others being Vettel, Alonso and Russell, which should guarantee some fun over the first few laps.

The warmer conditions are playing havoc with the tyres, hence the widespread feeling that this will be a two stopper. However, as if this wasn't enough, we have those bumps and the clampdown on track limits.

Though the hyperbole has been wearying this weekend, we have to admit that this has the potential to be a genuine thriller, but let's all hope that like the best mysteries movies the plot isn't given away in the opening moments.

With the high temperatures and high abrasion, a two-stopper looks optimal.

The exact strategy that each driver selects will also depend on the tyres they have left in their individual allocations, but the fastest way on paper to tackle the race involves one stint on the softs or mediums and two on the hards.

Managing the wear and degradation on the softs is going to be crucial, so those wanting to try a one-stop strategy will only be able to do this using medium and hard, but this appears not to be easy to achieve.

Those drivers starting out of position might be tempted to fit the hard at the start and run a long first stint to gain track position. However, COTA is a circuit with several overtaking opportunities and a reasonably small pit lane time loss, so the advantage of a one-stop strategy could be slightly less than usual.

Of the leading ten, all are on mediums bar Sainz and Tsunoda.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers begin to head out.

Air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees. Humidity is 66%. There is 0% chance of rain.

Ahead of the start there is drama, with mechanics surrounding Gasly's AlphaTauri.

As they head off on the formation lap, only Sainz and Tsunoda are on softs, the rest are on mediums. Gasly's issue, whatever it was, has clearly been resolved.

The grid forms.

They're away. Verstappen and Hamilton both get away well, the Dutchman moves across the track and as they enter Turn 1 they are side-by side. Max fluffs it and runs wide allowing the Mercedes to take the lead. As he rejoins the track, having lost out to his rival, Verstappen almost loses out to Perez also but the Mexican backs off.

Behind the McLarens and Ferrari are battling, Sainz and Ricciardo almost interlocking wheels. As Leclerc pulls clear, Ricciardo continues to harry Sainz, the McLaren touching the rear of the Ferrari. Suddenly the McLaren are on either side of the Spaniard and as they jostle for position Sainz runs wide.

Rejoining ahead of the McLarens, there is sure to be an investigation if he doesn't hand at least one place back.

Russell has made a brilliant start, while teammate Latifi has spun following a clash with Stroll.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Hamilton leading Verstappen by 0.7s, then Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Tsunoda, Bottas and Gasly. Russell up to 14th, Vettel 15th and Alonso 16th.

Following that manic opening lap, things begin to settle down. However, Gasly passes Bottas, which is bad news for Mercedes and the Finn.

Check out our Sunday gallery from COTA, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Cobra Driver, 26/10/2021 9:28

"kenji
Spot on. As the Brits would say, Chandhok is a numpty. Your assessment of the quality of the announcing team also hit the mark. Wish Murray was still with us.
"

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2. Posted by kenji, 25/10/2021 12:34

"@ Cobra Driver....your not wrong. Chandhok brings very little to the table of the better informed. The Sky team are really poor quality. I was about to post my feelings about having a week end free of the sycofantic utterings from Coulthard, Hill and Herbert. What a trio! Lazenby is hardly much better. Brundle is fine and also Davidson but they are the only two who I believe can carry the day. Surely there are better options out there...."

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3. Posted by Cobra Driver, 25/10/2021 11:49

"Excuse me for being repetitive, but what is with this Chandhok character and why does Sky continue to use him in any capacity even faintly resembling Formula One? The guy is ill-informed and most of the stuff coming out of his mouth is garbage. My "mute" button got a lot of use on Sunday. In my opinion, one of the contributors to a reduced TV audience is the lack of professionalism from several so-called experts.
"

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